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A Look Ahead in Politics

Since 2015 was a down year in politics, we decided to put together a forecast for 2016.

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In Fruitvale's District Five, Councilmember Noel Gallo is not expected to face any serious challengers, even though he recently contemplated retirement. East Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid (District Seven) also raised the possibility of retirement this fall, and if he exits the council, his daughter, Treva Reid, is likely to run for the seat. But Reid's behavior at a recent council committee meeting suggests he still has passion for the job; he gave a rousing campaign-like speech about his district's bright economic future. Councilmember Dan Kalb, District One (North Oakland) appears to be the least likely of the group to face serious competition next year.

Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan might be challenged by ex-Mayor Jean Quan. - BERT JOHNSON/FILE PHOTO
  • Bert Johnson/File photo
  • Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan might be challenged by ex-Mayor Jean Quan.


Berkeley

One of 2016's closely watched contests in the East Bay will likely be the race to replace Mayor Bates, who is retiring. Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Jesse Arreguín are expected to engage in a tight, contentious battle, with the issues of affordable housing and downtown development expected to dominate the campaign.

Capitelli is an ardent supporter of smart growth — dense housing projects built along major transits lines. He was one of the leading backers of the eighteen-story Harold Way development, which was recently approved by the council and also netted $10.5 million in funds for affordable housing. Arreguín, by contrast, abstained from voting for the Harold Way project, arguing that the developer should have paid even more money for affordable housing. Although Arreguín is not a member of the city's anti-growth contingent, that group likely will support him because he often votes against or abstains from voting for downtown development projects on the grounds that they don't include enough affordable housing. Arreguín is also popular among progressives, in part because of his advocacy for the city's homeless population. Bates, who is backing Capitelli, said he expects Arreguín to run a strong grassroots campaign, while Capitelli will likely have big advantage in fundraising.

Another must-watch contest in Berkeley next year will be the one for Capitelli's District Five (North Berkeley) seat. Capitelli is giving up his spot to run for mayor, and the race is expected to be a two-person contest between Sophie Hahn, an anti-growth activist who lost to Capitelli in 2012 and is a member of the zoning board, and Planning Commission Chair Stephen Murphy, a smart-growth advocate who was appointed to the commission by Capitelli. If Hahn wins, the balance of power on the council would shift toward the anti-growthers.

And the third interesting race in Berkeley will be the contest to replace progressive councilmember Max Anderson, who is also retiring. The District Three (South Berkeley) race is expected to feature planning commissioners Benjamin Bartlett, who was appointed by Anderson and is backed by him, squaring off against Deborah Matthews, a smart-growth advocate appointed by Councilmember Darryl Moore.

District Two's Moore is also up for reelection, but is not expected to face a serious challenge. Councilmember Susan Wengraf is also expected to cruise to reelection, although there is speculation that she might step aside if former state Assembly candidate Elizabeth Echols decides to run for her District Six seat.

Richmond

Three councilmembers are up for reelection — Nat Bates, Jael Myrick, and Vinay Pimplé — in Richmond, which has no council districts. The Richmond Progressive Alliance, which won three council seats in 2014, is expected to run a slate of candidates in the hopes of gaining a clear majority (although Myrick often votes with the progressive bloc).

But Mayor Tom Butt said the real wildcard in Richmond is Chevron. Last year, the oil giant spent more than $3 million backing Chevron-friendly candidates, but those candidates all lost. There's speculation that Chevron might decide to sit out the 2016 campaign, considering the company's losses last year. But Butt is skeptical that the oil giant will resist trying to influence Richmond's elections. "It's just not in their bones," he said.

Alameda

Alameda's recent inability to attract candidates for its municipal elections could continue in 2016. Two seats on the five-member city council are up for grabs. Incumbent Councilmembers Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Tony Daysog are expected to seek re-election. Like Richmond, Alameda uses an at-large election system to choose its city council. Although the names of various people interested in running have periodically surfaced, the most credible is Malia Vella, an attorney employed by the Teamsters who briefly served as Assemblymember Quirk's district director. In a city in which rent control has become a hot-button issue, Vella's potential candidacy and her early support for restrictions on rents could drive the conversation in this race.

San Leandro

Long-time councilmembers Jim Prola and Ursula Reed are termed out. The early outlook in each race features a pair of first-time candidates with experience on the city's boards and commissions. Prola's District Six seat is a potential race between Pete Ballew, a former San Leandro police lieutenant and current member of the personnel relations board, and Janet Palma, a former zoning commissioner. In District Two, Planning Commissioner Ed Hernandez is facing Recreation and Parks Commissioner Bryan Azevedo, who has union ties and has already attracted early support from current councilmembers. No serious challenger has stepped up yet to face incumbent District Four councilmember Benny Lee.


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